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A policy is making to encourage innovation

Indian govt is intended to bring out a new policy like the USA’s Bayh–Dole Act, to support experts from the academies to take initiative to translate their research into commercial products

A policy is making to encourage innovation
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A policy is making to encourage innovation

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If designed in a proper way, the new policy will definitely prove to be a booster shot to academic researchers in the country as it will help the academic research centres to establish autonomous companies that will help pursue innovation and convert these into viable marketable products. Much water has already flowed under the bridge since the US framed the new Bayh–Dole Act. Now, the Indian government should not waste time as innovation is the key to the future

On the lines of the USA's Bayh–Dole Act, the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) under the Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers is intending to design a policy to encourage academicians to set up independent companies (spin offs) to move academic discoveries into the commercial landscape and ensure fair reward sharing between innovators, institutes and the industry. The DoP has recently come out with a proposal in this regard. By bringing out a new policy like the Bayh–Dole Act, the DoP wanted to support experts from the academies to take initiative to translate their research into commercial products.

The move comes as part of the Indian government's efforts to catalyse research and development (R&D) in the pharma and medical technology sector in the country. Earlier, China had also passed a BDA-like regulation almost at the end of 2007, to tap the potential of the academies and bring them to the commercial side of innovation. As per the DoP's proposal, the government intends to establish IP Innovation and Patent Offices (IPO) or Technology Transfer offices (TTO) in academic institutions, industries and incubation centres. These offices will support innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups with patent related policies and provisions. Patent offices would be attached to the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks to bring clarity in patent application process, joint ventures and foreign collaborations.

The Bayh Dole Act (BDA), 1980, sponsored by two Senators, Birch Bayh and Bob Dole of the US, has provisions to allow institutions and universities to patent inventions that are from government-funded research. They can also license the innovation rights to partners in the private sector, who can develop them further to commercialise it. The institutes and universities will get royalty from the commercialised products. The Act changed patent policy, involvement of universities in patenting, augmented commercial revenues and increased collaborations of universities with industries. Therefore, the Act became a boon for universities-industries relation and private players in the US. A key change made by Bayh–Dole was in the procedures by which federal contractors that acquired ownership of inventions made with federal funding could retain that ownership. A second key change with Bayh-Dole was to authorize federal agencies to grant exclusive licenses to inventions owned by the federal government. If experts are to be believed, the Bayh-Dole Act has been a tremendous success in the US. Between 1996 and 2015, the licensing activity spurred by the Bayh-Dole Act contributed close to $5911 billion to US gross domestic product and supported an estimated 4.2 million jobs in the US. In 2016 alone, more than 1,000 start-up companies were formed and nearly 800 commercial products from university research were introduced to patients. Experts say that while before the Act, no drugs had been created from federally funded inventions, after its enactment in 1980, more than 200 new drugs and vaccines have been developed through public-private partnerships facilitated in part by the Bayh-Dole Act.

In such a backdrop, the DoP's proposal to design a Bayh-Dole Act like policy is the need of the hour as this is the only way to accelerate and allow universities, non-profit research centres and small businesses to hold a patent and commercialize inventions developed under government funded research programs. Further, it will drive technology transfers, protect intellectual property and enable faster lab-to-market process. During the ongoing pandemic phase, the government has witnessed and assessed the intuitive research capability of India's scientific community across academia and the start-ups that have sprung up as lucrative entities. So, a policy like Bayh-Dole is extremely important for India to encourage commercialization of drug discovery in academia. Innovation is the only way that we can get this. Hence there is need for policies and measures to encourage research-led innovation which will help us to get non-linear and exponential growth. There is a huge proposal being considered right now on research linked incentives that will actually be a game changer. If designed in a proper way, the new policy will definitely prove to be a booster shot to academic researchers in the country as it will help the academic research centres to establish autonomous companies that will help pursue innovation and convert these into viable marketable products. Much water has already flowed under the bridge since the US framed the new Bayh–Dole Act. Now, the Indian government should not waste time as innovation is the key to the future.

(The author is freelance journalist with varied experience in different fields)

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